Rare Apple customer survey sparks hopes for 3G in next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

This could be interesting.

Apple, which typically relies on its own in-house research as opposed to customer feedback, began reaching out to select MacBook Air owners this week in a new survey that could help define future versions of the diminutive notebook, posing questions on 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with more capable computing power.

Per AppleInsider, the wide-ranging survey touches on a number of issues, including the use of USB ports and external disc drives, Web-based file storage and syncing, and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. It also includes a number of queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, suggesting Apple could be exploring integrated cellular radios in future notebooks.

Official Apple customer surveys on products are not unheard of, though they are rare. The last survey AppleInsider can recall was conducted back in February 2009 to help shape the future of the Apple TV, and that was related to the company’s self-proclaimed “hobby” that was a work-in-progress.

In addition to future MacBook Air models, the new survey could offer a glimpse into Apple’s plans for the MacBook Pro line of notebooks. When the new MacBook Air was released last October, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the thin-and-light computer is “the first of a new generation of notebooks.”

Interestingly, the survey asks users whether they have connected their MacBook Air to a 3G network, how often they do so, where they connect to 3G, what type of device they use to connect to a 3G network (MiFi, USB device, or tethering with a cell phone).

Though the redesigned MacBook Air launched in late 2010, rumors of its successor have already begun to surface. Last week, it was said that Apple allegedly plans to upgrade its line of thin-and-light notebooks to Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors this June. No claims were made about 3G connectivity.

Rumors of a 3G-capable Mac have persisted for years, but the company does not yet sell a notebook with an integrated cellular data radio. Apple even sought to hire a 3G expert for its Mac team in 2009, fueling those rumors that the functionality would be added to a future MacBook.

So, it’s hard to say how much attention to pay to this, but it is sort of interesting and could lead to something cool. If you’ve seen this survey on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple looking to place Sandy Bridge processor in MacBook Air line this June

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Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 06:22
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

If you’re hankering for an upgraded processor in your MacBook Air, just wait a bit.

Per CNET, Apple is looking to replace the Core 2 Duo chip found in the current MacBook Air, a processor that is two generations behind Intel’s recently released Sandy Bridge processors. The MacBook Air was updated with a new, thinner design, flash memory drive, and an 11.6-inch model was added to the mix in an update released last fall.

In December, CNET claimed that future MacBooks from Apple with Sandy Bridge processor would not use Nvidia graphics processors in at least some models 13 inches and under. It is rumored that the smaller models will switch to Sandy Bridge-only integrated graphics, while Apple’s larger, higher-end MacBooks with screen sizes of 15 and 17 inches will allegedly rely on GPUs from AMD.

Intel began its roll-out of the Sandy Bridge next-generation processors in January, but the company quickly discovered an error in the chipset that accompanies the processor. That forced Intel to halt production of Sandy Bridge processors while it works on a fix for the 6 Series chipset code-named Cougar Point.

The error affected both desktop and mobile chips, leading to concerns that the issue could have an impact on Apple’s anticipated MacBook Pro refresh. Apple last updated its MacBook Pro notebooks in April of 2010, meaning an update for those products is likely to precede the alleged June refresh for the MacBook Air.

Intel announced this week that it has resumed shipment of chipsets for systems not affected by the Cougar Point design issue, which can lead to poor performance of devices connected to certain SATA ports. The chipmaker also said that it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge hips on their previously announced launch date of February 20th.

Users report bugs in iChat video recording on current-gen MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Monday, January 31st, 2011, 06:16
Category: MacBook Air, News

You love your new MacBook Air.

You would have asked it to prom if it had been around back then.

And it might not be able to record video chats despite having the hardware to do so.

According to MacFixIt, a reader wrote to state has not been able to record video chats in iChat on his new MacBook Air notebook. While video chats work fine, for some reason the “Record Chat” option in the “Video” menu does not work and the program will not allow video chats to be recorded. This is in contrast to both prior MacBook Air models, all other Mac systems that support video chatting.

MacFixIt reader “Joseph” writes:
“I’ve just discovered that the new MacBook Air, unlike every other current-vintage Apple laptop and desktop, is unable to record a video iChat. My local Apple Store tells me that the problem lies within the hardware itself. Can anyone tell me more specifically what that problem is, and whether there might be any workarounds?”

In the midst of diagnosing the problem, the article suggests creating a new user account on the system to test iChat with and see if any user-related settings were contributing to the problem.

On systems that support recording, a green check will appear. On the MacBook Air systems experiencing this problem an “Insufficient CPU” error will be shown.

Apparently other users have reported experiencing this problem, and in a call to AppleCare, one reader was told it is caused by the latest model of MacBook Air having a hardware incompatibility with iChat that prevents video chats from being recorded. To see this, if you go to the “Video” menu and choose “Connection Doctor,” select “Capabilities” from the drop-down menu and the “Record video chat” option will show “Insufficient CPU” instead of a green check.

Some MacBook Air systems that are experiencing this problem have been able to record video when running Mac OS X 10.5.x, indicating this issue may be with the previous 2009 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.5 in addition to the 2010 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.6.

The hardware in the latest MacBook Air should be fully capable of recording video chats.

Therefore, this is likely a bug in iChat that is preventing this feature from working. It appears Apple uses a specific feature of certain CPUs in iChat’s recording feature, and this feature is either not present in the CPUs used in the latest MacBook Air systems, or it has been disabled in firmware or by how the CPU interfaces with the other hardware changes in the latest MacBook Air systems.

Meanwhile if you are affected by this issue, one workaround that’s been located is to use QuickTime Player’s video chatting capabilities. To do this, start up a video chatting session and launch QuickTime Player. Then start a screen recording session, switch to iChat, and set the video to be full screen. This will record the screen and your audio input which you should then be able to import into iMovie or any other editing software.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Apple releases MacBook Air Software Update 2.0, iDVD 7.1.1 updates

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Date: Wednesday, January 19th, 2011, 04:14
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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As a way of capping off news that the company had turned over a US$6 billion quarterly profit (i.e., mucho dinero), Apple released a pair of software updates for owners of the latest-generation MacBook Air and iLife ’11.

Per Macworld UK, the company released MacBook Air Software Update 2.0, a small update (less than a 1MB download) that tackles a reported bug in which the unit is unable to go to sleep.

The company also released iDVD 7.1.1, a 34MB update that improves stability and brings compatibility for sending slideshows from iPhoto ’11 to iDVD.

Though this update targets an issue relating to iPhoto ’11, Apple recommends it for all users of iDVD 7, which was bundled with iLife ’09 and iLife ’08.

Both updates are available via the support pages, but they should also be waiting in Software Update.

If you’ve tried either update and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

QuickerTek releases Apple Juicz solar charger for MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, 05:23
Category: Accessory, MacBook Air

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Ok, this smacks of the spiffy.

Recently, accessory maker QuickerTek updated its Apple Juicz line of solar power chargers, releasing a flexible photoelectric tarp which can be laid out upon or staked to the ground to absorb sunlight. The 27-watt model covers 41.”5 x 30.5″, and recharges a MacBook Air in 12 hours; the 55-watt version is 59″ x 43″, and does the same in six hours. Per Macworld, both models fold up to notepad size for transportation in an included case.

The Apple Juicz comes with a rebuilt MagSafe connector for use with your MacBook, a 12V car charger, and a third connector to attach other QuickerTek products such as external battery packs. The QuickerTek web site lists the Apple Juicz for the MacBook Air as a separate unit from the standard model, but also says their standard model is compatible with the Air.

The Apple Juicz retails for US$700 for the 27-watt model, and US$1200 for the 55-watt model and is currently available for order.

Composition notebook cover now available for 11″ MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010, 11:49
Category: Accessory, MacBook Air

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As nifty looking as the 11″ MacBook Air is, you may feel a need to jazz it up with a modification reminiscent of your school days. Per The Daily What, Beyondthetech is currently selling a skin that will transform the outer lid of your MacBook Air into a traditional mottled black and white composition notebook.

Installation instructions are available on the Beyondthetech web site and the MacBook Air skin is a free download while the custom ZAGGSkin will set you back US$60 plus shipping and taxes.

Apple releases MacBook Air EFI firmware update 2.0 for 2010 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, December 9th, 2010, 05:38
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple issued a MacBook Air EMI firmware resolving an issue where the ultra-thin laptop boots or wakes to a black screen or becomes unresponsive.

Per AppleInsider, the MacBook Air EFI firmware update 2.0 is recommended for all 11″ and 13″ MacBook Air (late 2010) models and requires Mac OS X 10.6.5 to install and run. The update addresses a “rare issue” where the MacBook Air is unresponsive or displays just a black screen after booting or waking.

Apple launched the redesigned MacBook Air in October at its “Back to the Mac event.” As predicted by AppleInsider the Mac maker released an 11.6″ version of the ultra-portable notebook and abandoned mechanical hard disk drives in favor of custom solid state storage.

On the day of the revamped MacBook Air’s unveiling, Apple released a software update for the product, resolving a problem where the MacBook Air became unresponsive after waking from sleep when an external display was connected.

Shortly after the release of the MacBook Air, reports emerged that users were experiencing problems ranging from faulty logic boards to display issues. One issue, detailed on an Apple support thread, involved a flickering or frozen screen. It is not clear whether Apple’s EFI firmware update specifically addresses this issue.

Despite scattered reports of issues with the MacBook Air, the laptop has continued to sell well, especially the 11-inch model. The US$999 11.6″ MacBook Air’s ship times slipped from within 24 hours to 1-3 business days in the first week after its release.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Apple nixes PhotoFast 256GB MacBook Air upgrade kit

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Date: Tuesday, November 30th, 2010, 12:46
Category: MacBook Air, News

It was good while it lasted.

Per 9to5 Mac, Apple has quietly stopped third-party outfitter PhotoFast from selling the 256GB MacBook Air SSD upgrade kit, the company’s product page returning a 404 error this morning.

The kit included a 256GB upgrade chip as well as a USB 3.0 housing for the 64GB chip currently in the 11.6″ MacBook Air. Plus, it could read and write at 250MB/s while Apple’s SSD clocks in between 150MB/s and 160MB/s.

PhotoFast is currently licensed with Apple to make Apple accessories through the MFi Program, a privilege that could have been lost.

Apple releases Boot Camp 3.2 update

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Date: Friday, November 19th, 2010, 03:28
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released its Boot Camp 3.2 update (a 280 megabyte download for the 32-bit version of Windows and a 121 megabyte download for the 64-bit version of Windows), a package that added the following changes and fixes for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 under Boot Camp:

– Adds support for the ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics card.

– Adds support for the Apple USB Ethernet Adapter.

– Adds support for the MacBook Air SuperDrive.

– Addresses critical bug fixes.

This update is highly recommended for all Boot Camp 3.1 users and can be located and snagged on the Windows side via the Apple Software Update application.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Adobe looking to settle battery life argument, currently testing MacBook Air-specific version of Flash

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Date: Wednesday, November 17th, 2010, 20:27
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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Following a brief period of controversy regarding Flash and its relationship with specific hardware, Adobe’s chief executive revealed this week that his company is currently testing an optimized version of Flash built specifically for Apple’s newly released MacBook Air.

Per Engadget, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said that Adobe is looking to improve battery life on the MacBook Air with a new custom build of Adobe Flash, currently in beta testing in the company’s labs. According to Engadget, he noted that battery life performance depends on hardware acceleration.

“When we have access to hardware acceleration, we’ve proven that Flash has equal or better performance on every platform,” he said.

His comments come after testing of the new MacBook Air found that ditching Flash improved battery life by two hours. The new notebook gets six hours of uptime loading pages in the Safari browser, but that dips to four hours once Adobe Flash is installed.

Apple caused a stir in October, when it released its newly redesigned MacBook Air models, but shipped them without the Flash plugin preinstalled. Apple portrayed the change as an advantage to consumers, as leaving the user to install Flash ensures they have the latest version.

Apple and Adobe have been at odds in 2010, in a feud that gained considerable steam after Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs published an open letter criticizing Flash as old technology that is unfit for the modern era of mobile computers. Apple does not allow Flash onto its iOS-powered devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

Jobs also revealed that Flash is the number one reason for crashes on the Mac platform. For its part, Adobe fired back and said that any crashes of Flash in Mac OS X are not related to its software, but are instead the fault of Apple’s operating system.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.